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Class Action Lawsuits

Uptown People's Law Center has six class action lawsuits filed against the Illinois Department of Corrections. These lawsuits will ultimately change the prison system in Illinois for the better. To learn more about a case, click on the name. 


Richard v. Pritzker: COVID-19, Call to Release Vulnerable Prisoners

In response to the swiftly spreading coronavirus epidemic in Illinois' prisons, a consortium of the area's leading civil rights attorneys and community advocates filed three cases seeking release of prisoners. By dragging its feet in the face of the pandemic, IDOC and Illinois' political leaders are putting prisoners, prison staff and the general public at greater risk of severe illness and death.

Rasho v. Jeffreys: Mental Health Care

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) punishes prisoners with mental illness, rather than properly treating them, and the treatment that is available is grossly inadequate. In May 2016, we entered into a settlement agreement with IDOC to completely revamp the way people with serious mental illnesses are treated in Illinois prisons. 

Lippert v. Jeffreys: Medical Care

Health care in Illinois prisons is so inadequate that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to fix the medical and dental care provided to Illinois prisoners. 

Holmes v. Jeffreys: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections for failing to provide Deaf and hard of hearing prisoners with interpreters, hearing aids, or other assistive devices, thus depriving them of meaningful access to medical appointments, religious services, disciplinary hearings, and many other vital interactions with staff. 

Davis v. Jeffreys: Solitary Confinement

Illinois prisoners are confined, often for 24 hours a day, to small, airless cells with no natural light, reduced food, and minimal yard time. Many are held in this extreme isolation for years. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to end this cruel and unusual punishment. 

Ross v. Gossett: Excessive Force

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections on behalf of hundreds of prisoners who experienced excessive force, and physical and sexual assault at the hands of an abusive team of correctional officers called the "Orange Crush tactical team."


Closed Cases:

Westefer v. Snyder: Closing Tamms Supermax Prison:

Tamms Supermax Prison housed hundreds of prisoners in round-the-clock solitary confinement. UPLC sued, stating that prisoners were sent to Tamms as retaliation for speaking out against the Illinois Department of Corrections. In 2010, the District Court ruled that every prisoner who had been sent to Tamms had been denied a hearing which complied with the minimum requirements of due process. UPLC then led the fight which, three years later, permanently closed the prison. 

MH v. Finley: Juvenile Parole

In January 2015, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys (at the state's expense) to juveniles who are accused of violating their parole.

 

Morales v. Monreal: Parole Revocation

In October 2016, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys and adequate hearings to eligible parolees accused of violating parole. We are now monitoring the implementation of the settlement agreement. 


The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois certified all 28,000+ state prisoners to be part of a class Monday in a class action lawsuit challenging IDOC's excessive use of solitary confinement.

Prisons and their surrounding communities would be safer. And a dangerous backlog of people in county jails awaiting transfer would be reduced.

On June 15, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois certified a class action challenging the constitutionality of the excessive use of extreme isolation (various forms of solitary confinement) by the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC). The Court certified a class of all state prisoners (over 28,000) represented by Winston & Strawn LLP and the Uptown People's Law Center. Accordingly, the ruling expands the case from the six named plaintiffs to a class of all state prisoners seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the IDOC's policies and procedures resulting to the excessive use of extreme isolation.

The latest report on health care in Illinois state prisons (PDF) was released to the public earlier this month. This report was created by Dr. John Raba, an independent, court-appointed monitor, as a result of the class action lawsuit Lippert v. Jeffreys, brought by ACLU of Illinois, Uptown People's Law Center, and Dentons. This lawsuit alleged that the health care provided to prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is unconstitutional, and was settled in January 2019.

As COVID-19 vaccination distribution has expanded across the country, incarcerated people remain one of the populations that is both most vulnerable to COVID-19 and most distrustful of medical care, according to several legal advocacy organizations.

Isolated in solitary confinement as the pandemic swept through Illinois prisons, inmates diagnosed with mental illness are beyond the breaking point, setting fire to their cells and harming themselves after more than a year without adequate mental health care.

After spending 22 years in solitary confinement, Anthony Gay is trying to make sure no other prisoner in Illinois has to experience the same level of trauma that he went through.

For the last 12 years of his three-decade prison sentence, Brian Nelson spent 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

For more than a decade after he was released, Nelson became an advocate for incarcerated people and sought to reform Illinois’ criminal justice system. The job included reading and answering thousands of letters from prisoners and recounting the horror of his stay in solitary for legislators, including before the Senate.

Brian Nelson was haunted by his experience of being locked in solitary confinement for 23 years in Illinois prisons.

After he was freed in 2010, he dedicated his life to helping other inmates.

The Just Housing Amendment is a law that was put in place to prohibit housing discrimination against people in Cook County who have a criminal record.

As millions of Illinoisans are still waiting for their chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and even those who are eligible are scrambling for appointments, at least one group is largely giving up its place at the front of the vaccine line: people who work in Illinois prisons.

As millions of Illinoisans are still waiting for their chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and even those who are eligible are scrambling for appointments, at least one group is largely giving up its place at the front of the vaccine line: people who work in Illinois prisons.

More than 1,000 prisoners in Illinois are set to be released after a lawsuit settlement aimed at protecting medically vulnerable prisoners from COVID-19.

The Illinois Department of Corrections will identify medically vulnerable and elderly prisoners eligible for early release or electronic home monitoring.

COVID-19 cases are ticking back upward across Chicago and the rest of Illinois even as vaccine supply improves, the top doctors from the city and state warned Tuesday.

Infections have increased about 23% in Chicago over the past week, mostly among people age 18 to 40, according to city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

More than 1,000 medically vulnerable or elderly inmates in Illinois prisons are set to be released following a settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought last spring against the head of the Illinois Department of Corrections and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, which claimed they weren’t doing enough to protect against COVID-19.

After a deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois prisons sickened thousands of workers and inmates, the state will begin vaccinating both groups in the coming week — a plan that drew praise from advocates but provoked the ire of some lawmakers who argue criminals should not be prioritized.

People incarcerated in Illinois will be among those vaccinated against coronavirus during the next phase, according to a newly released state plan.

People incarcerated in jails and prisons will be prioritized for vaccines along with people who are 65 and older, certain essential workers and people experiencing homelessness or residing in shelters, according to the plan released Dec. 31 by the state health department. They’ll all be given access to vaccines during the next phase, know as Phase 1B.

Whilst staff at veterans' homes, nursing homes, hospitals and sundry health care facilities balk at getting vaccinated – let-me-think-about-it rates for doctors, nurses and other frontline health care workers are as high as 40 percent nationwide – the state of Illinois has decided that while doses remain scarce, prisoners and the homeless who reside in shelters or frequent day centers are on par with the elderly (75 or older) and "frontline essential workers" who will be second in line after health care workers.

COVID-19 hospitalizations at Illinois corrections department leave incarcerated peoples’ loved ones with questions

Dozens of legal and community advocacy groups signed an open letter Monday urging the Illinois Department of Public Health to prioritize incarcerated individuals and staff working in jails and prisons in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

As a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly through Illinois prisons this fall, 73-year-old Watson Gray made another plea to be released from Dixon Correctional Center, where new infections were rising.

As the new COVID-19 surge continues racing through Illinois prisons, with a disturbing rise in inmate deaths in November plus the state’s first staff fatality, corrections officials said they will start to test all prison employees for the virus regardless of whether the workers have symptoms.

Cook County commissioners, housing advocates, and tenants held a virtual press conference Dec. 8, 2020 urging the Cook County Board to pass the proposed Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO), which would safeguard 245,000 suburban county renter households from landlord retaliation, illegal lockouts, and unreasonable fees. Cook County commissioners Scott Britton (14th District) and Kevin Morrison (15th District) are chief sponsors of the ordinance.

In letters and interviews, men inside the facility describe conditions they say are continuing to drive infections at the Illinois prison hardest hit by coronavirus.

In letters and interviews, men inside the facility describe conditions they say are continuing to drive infections at the Illinois prison hardest hit by coronavirus.

Activists and family members of people incarcerated in Vienna Correctional Center are calling on the Illinois Department of Public Health to shut down the minimum-security prison in southern Illinois.

Activists and family members of people incarcerated in Vienna Correctional Center are calling on the Illinois Department of Public Health to shut down the minimum-security prison in southern Illinois.

The prison has been plagued by electrical issues, which caused intermittent power outages over several weeks in May, according to news reports. Prison officials have relied on backup generators, which “generate noxious fumes and are themselves unreliable,” according to the letter, which has over 1,000 signatures.

A federal judge has ruled that the Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) violated the settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit requiring effective communication for deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. Monday afternoon, Judge Young B. Kim granted plaintiffs' motion to enforce the settlement after efforts to get IDOC to comply with the settlement's requirements were unsuccessful.

An amended lawsuit filed against Rob Jeffreys, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week claims that the state’s prison system has failed to protect medically vulnerable prisoners from COVID-19.

For weeks, two houses in Illinois’ Vienna Correctional Center ran on generator power and had intermittent failures. The outages made it harder to use the shared bathroom, one of the few places they could wash their hands.

COVID-19 continues to have a devastating effect on one of Chicago’s most vulnerable congregate populations: jail and prison detainees. At least 153 inmates and 147 staffers in Illinois state prisons are currently diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections

As efforts continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 at Cook County Jail by reducing the inmate population, Gov. J.B. Pritzker could help the effort with the stroke of a pen.

Today’s guest is Alan Mills, the Executive Director of the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago. Alan has been fighting for the rights of imprisoned people for decades and has played a key role in recent efforts to free prisoners who are locked in facilities where the coronavirus is spreading like wildfire. Alan, welcome to the show.

Preventing the spread of covid-19 is difficult everywhere. But prisons are among the hardest places to protect. Worldwide there are 11m behind bars, according to Penal Reform International, a pressure group. That is the highest figure ever.

An Illinois lawmaker and a county sheriff are raising fresh concerns about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to release inmates as the spread of COVID-19 continues in the state’s prisons, including questions about transparency.

A federal judge Friday blocked a bid by state prisoners for an accelerated release or transfer amid the coronavirus, finding state officials’ current processes don’t violate their constitutional rights.

An Illinois federal judge on Friday refused to order the temporary release of nearly a third of the state’s prison population in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying the inmates aren’t entitled to such extraordinary relief “even in these extraordinary times.”

A federal judge cleared the way for a teacher to pursue a lawsuit accusing Illinois prison officials of violating her right to free speech when they canceled a debate course she taught behind bars.

A federal judge on Friday denied a request for the state to immediately release potentially thousands of at-risk detainees from Illinois prisons, saying that while the coronavirus pandemic is clearly a serious threat there was “no convincing reason for a federal court to intrude here and now."

It took a prisoner’s death ‘just for them to pass out a single extra bar of soap,’ one incarcerated man said.

Pritzker's executive order gives the Illinois Department of Corrections permission to allow "medically vulnerable" inmates out of prison temporarily.

Pritzker's executive order gives the Illinois Department of Corrections permission to allow "medically vulnerable" inmates out of prison temporarily.

So far, three incarcerated men in Illinois — two who had been housed at Stateville prison in Crest Hill and a detainee at the Cook County Jail – have died from complications related to the coronavirus.

The night after the first man at Stateville Correctional Center died from COVID-19, a prisoner we’re referring to as “Harold,” said he was watching the nightly news in his cell. (WBEZ has agreed to not identify the prisoner by his real name.)

The night after the first man at Stateville Correctional Center died from COVID-19, a prisoner we’re referring to as “Harold,” said he was watching the nightly news in his cell. (WBEZ has agreed to not identify the prisoner by his real name.)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is deploying medics from the Illinois National Guard to the Illinois Department of Corrections facility, where advocates have declared a ‘disaster.’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s failure to release vulnerable prisoners from overcrowded facilities will cost unnecessary loss of life behind bars and in surrounding communities, say advocates and medical professionals.

A group of civil rights attorneys initiated a united legal challenge Thursday against Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Corrections, demanding the immediate release of Illinois prisoners vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The effort includes a proposed class-action lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, naming Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Rob Jeffreys, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, as defendants.

The man was imprisoned at Stateville Correctional Center, where officials say there are now 12 men who are hospitalized, "including several requiring ventilators."

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